Yesterday the Guardian ran a story about how Man City were ‘increasingly confident of signing Alexis Sanchez for a potential fee in the region of £50m.’ They say that the Arsenal man is keen to play under Pep Guardiola again, and that Arsene Wenger is aware of his desire to go there.
That he might want to leave should come as no surprise to any Arsenal fan, and while this is a post that has the potential to come back and bite me on the arse, I would say that I am confident we will not sanction this deal.
Taking it all into account, his contract situation, our history of selling players heading into the final 12 months of the season, the money on offer, I just can’t see how Arsenal as a club can justify it in any way. Let me outline the reasons why this deal should not happen, and why I feel that we should keep him even if he refuses new terms.
1 – If we sell our best player to a direct rival, we might as well give up. If the FA Cup win went some way to repairing the significant cracks that have appeared between fans and the manager/board, this would reopen them in a big way. There is nothing that Arsene Wenger, Stan Kroenke or Ivan Gazidis could say that would make this deal in any way acceptable.
Yes, we could immediately reinvest the money, we could go large on a big signing, but the bottom line is we’ll be seen as a soft touch that has strengthened one of the other top teams as we’ve weakened ourselves. The club must know the reaction to this would be as visceral as anything we’ve ever seen, and I don’t think they’re ready to open themselves to that amount of anger.
As a club they have proven themselves indifferent to the feelings of fans in the past, but they would be very well advised to pay attention this time around. It’s time to show some backbone. You don’t finish 5th then sell your best player if you’re serious about getting back to where you want to be.
2 – Ask yourself this: Would you have more confidence in an Arsenal team with Alexis Sanchez in it, or an Arsenal board with £50m extra to spend? Exactly. Even if the Sanchez fee went on something outrageous like Kylian Mbappe, you’d be hard pressed to say it will have improved us for the season ahead, and that’s got to be our goal this summer.
Mbappe is a tremendous prospect but just 18 years old. To expect him to fill the boots of a man with 30 goals and 14 assists last season is just not realistic.
Basically, Alexis Sanchez is worth more to us on the pitch next season that £50m in the bank now. If you want to take the cash and try replace him be my guest, but I’d have little confidence in the current set-up to do that.
3 – As a player I would have no problem with Sanchez staying into the final 12 months of his contract. His character means he will always give you 100%, there’s no chance of him slacking off, and should things go well next season after we spend well this summer (hahaha, I know!), then perhaps there’s a chance of persuading him to sign a new contract.
If not, we allow a 29 year old player – who will have had four years of non-stop football since he joined us (four summer tournaments) – to leave and get the big money move he wants via a free transfer, the signing on fee and all that. We can wish him the best as he’ll have done his best for us and fulfilled the terms of his contract. There can’t be any anger directed at him if he does that, and if he goes to Man City then, there’s not much we can do about it.
If we want to be angry at the club for not managing a situation that sees a star player leave for nothing, that’s a different issue, but that’s on them, not him. And we’ll have had another year of one of the best players in the world which will hopefully have helped us achieve something, as well as time to properly plan for life without him (hahaha, I know!).
There are a couple of other things that strike me about this story. One is that if City are reportedly that confident, it usually means that they’ve had encouragement from the player and his agents that he’s open to the move. You can see why he would be: City are spending big, they can pay big, he gets to work with Guardiola again, and his disquiet at Arsenal’s inability to properly challenge for the big trophies is understandable to an extent.
However, he and his people must know that if there’s any chance of this happening it would require a massive bid from City as well as some work from his side. He’d have to kick up a real fuss behind the scenes to force Arsenal into selling him there, and I’m not sure he’s the kind of guy to do that. I say that guardedly because even nice guys can behave in ways you don’t expect when they really want a transfer to happen, but as much as he might want to leave I’d be surprised if he did that – and I’d be surprised if Arsenal gave into it.
The other thing is that a story like this is often part of the machinations of a transfer. Present a Doomsday scenario that then makes another option more palatable. While I firmly believe Arsenal cannot sell him to another Premier League club, the idea of selling him abroad is nowhere near as unthinkable.
The issue there, however, is the shortage of suitors. Bayern appear reluctant to spend that amount on a player of his age, PSG are looking elsewhere, and beyond that it’s hard to see who would have the money and the stature to make a deal realistic for him and for the club. So, unless something starts shaking on the continent soon, a Sanchez stay looks more likely than any departure this summer.
Meanwhile, Chile have reached the final of the Confederations Crap, so that means his season extends until Sunday. Arsenal’s pre-season begins on Monday.
We’ve also had a bid turned down for Monaco’s Thomas Lemar, which might go some way to explain renewed interest in Riyad Mahrez. It does feel as if things are beginning to move, but the clock is ticking, and there’s still a lot of work to do.
All the news on our other failed bids for you throughout the day over on Arseblog News, while later on Ivan Gazidis will meet with supporters groups at a Q&A.
Tim Stillman will be there to cover it for us, so you can expect the usual in-depth look at things from him, and even if the questions are manufactured and Gazidis is great at talking the talk, I suspect this is one from which interesting things will emerge.